10th Sunday of Ordinary Time / Trinity 1.
In English, the word ‘hard’ has several different meanings. It can mean ‘hard’ as opposed to ‘soft’: like “taking a hard (or firm) line about something”; but we also often use ‘hard’ about the things that we find difficult to accept or understand, or those we find ‘hard to do ’:like ‘loving our enemies’.
This confusion matters, especially when we consider the so-called ‘Hard Sayings’ of Jesus.
Jesus used many ‘hard’ sayings to teach people the Truth, both about themselves, and about Himself. In today’s Gospel, for instance, He said, “let any man blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness”. That’s as hard or firm a saying as anyone ever made about anything!
Those who want to believe Jesus was always “mild-and-gentle” with His audiences and never wanted to upset them, face a big difficulty here. All three Evangelists, Mark, Matthew and Luke agree that He did say it (or its Aramaic equivalent). St John tells us that many followers abandoned Him at this stage of His ministry because of His “intolerable language”. (John 6;60) Jesus was no crowd-pleaser!
Those who cling to the “mild-and-gentle” view of Jesus just ignore His ‘hard sayings’; but faithful Christians, simply can’t afford to ‘pick and choose what our Saviour says about our salvation, much as we might prefer the soft things to the hard ones!
Before accusing others of committing any sin, especially the ‘unforgivable’ one, it’s wise to begin by asking whether we ourselves understand what “Sinning against the Holy Spirit” actually means.
That’s not too difficult. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as ‘The Spirit of Truth’; so blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in our refusing to recognize Evil as being Evil, or by calling it ‘Good’ when we really know that, in God’s eyes, it is wrong.
This often happens when someone knows they’ve done wrong, but when accused they accuse their critics of being prejudiced or judgemental, or simply old-fashioned, as if‘ choosing right means ‘doing what’s fashionable, rather like we choosing what clothes to buy and wear. The 1911 pop song ‘Everybody’s Doin’ it Now’, is as morally misleading today as it ever was.
Of course, there are both good and bad prejudices, like there are good and bad judgements; but being fashionable, acceptable or popular doesn’t prove that they are morally right.
To confuse the word ‘hard’ (the opposite of ‘soft’) with ‘hard’ (difficult to understand, or to perform) is like weighing groceries on a pair of faulty scales. Although the two scale-pans appear to balance, in fact they don’t and using faulty scales or false weights when weighing our Moral judgements, in-justice will inevitably be the outcome!
But equally, tearing-up the Rulebook and trying to make a new one, is just as mistaken.
The only cure for moral degeneracy is to open the eyes of the wilfully blind, and thus enable them to see that it’s not a reformed morality that’s needed, but re-formed men and women – who have been trans-formed by God’s Grace; and always using the set of Moral Scales and Weights which have already been provided for us, both by the hard, as well as the not-so-hard sayings of Jesus Christ! “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)
Fr. Francis Gardom